The annual United States report on global human rights practices affirmed that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, but reintroduced language that spoke of Israeli occupation of territory, two-states and gave a nod in the direction of Palestinian Authority rights to sections of Jerusalem.
The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the first one authored by the Biden administration, looked at human rights issues in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as part of its global analysis on almost 200 nations. With respect to Israel and the Palestinians the new report followed for the most part language used by the former Trump administration.
Both the Biden and Trump administrations clarified that the United States has recognized that Jerusalem is Israel capital since 2017 and neither report clarifies the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. Both reports explain that such boundaries are subject to negotiations.
The reports also affirm Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the US recognized in 2019.
But the Trump administration downgraded the Palestinian connection to Jerusalem, noting that that "the Palestinian Authority exercises no authority over Jerusalem."
This year's report, which looked at the year 2020, omitted that line. The 2020 report also included an explanation about Israeli occupation missing from the Trump administration's 2019 report. The 2020 report stated: "This section of the report covers Israel within the 1949 Armistice Agreement line as well as Golan Heights and east Jerusalem territories that Israel occupied during the June 1967 war and where it later extended its domestic law, jurisdiction, and administration."
The 2019 report by the Trump administration did not use the word "occupation" with respect to Israeli hold on territory.
That 2019 report also failed to speak of a future Palestinian state. The 2020 Biden administration report, however, references a "future Palestinian state."
At a briefing about the report in Washington DC, Lisa Peterson, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor was quizzed as to why Biden and not adopted the Obama administration-era language in the report which spoke of "Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories."
Biden had opted instead to use the phrase inserted under former US President Donald Trump's tenure which spoke strictly of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
Peterson said it was "clearer and more useful for readers seeking information on human rights in these specific areas" to use a geographic reference.
She clarified that the "language in the report [is] not meant to convey a position on any final status issue."
The Biden administration has yet to provide a clear policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has taken only minute steps to reverse the Trump administration's policies on the matter.
However, the political Right fears that Biden will slowly undo the impact of the Trump administration's actions on the conflict and restore the language used during Obama's tenure, which spoke of "occupied" Palestinian territory and two-states based on the pre-1967 lines.
The report itself details a wide range of activity, including Israeli demolition of illegal Palestinian structures as well as its its failure to provide building permits to the Palestinians.
The report also referred to Hamas as a terrorist organization and discussed allegations of corruption in the Palestinian Authority.